My novel “Romka” grew out of a short story I wrote in November 2017. It was the first story I’d written after a three year hiatus, due to ill health. Going on this writing hiatus is the one thing I regret in my life and I’ve made some seriously dodgy choices – but I digress. It took me a little over a month to write and once finished, I put it away to rest until editing. Soon after though, I realised that the story of Romka’s disappearance, of her best friend Myriam and the campground she lives on, was far from told. I had moved on to another short story by then but I just went with my gut and got back to it – best decision I ever made, btw!
I was inspired to write this story by a picture on the cover of – wait for it! – Romka magazine, which sadly is in its last issue. I named my novel to pay tribute to my source of inspiration, fyi. On said cover was a young girl, an ordinary girl not a model, whose face and sly smile drew me in. I looked at her, wondering who she was and this wave of nostalgia swept over me. I started to think of myself at her age and about my friends then and how they’ve all disappeared from my life without warning and without a trace. From that point on the story unfolded in my mind, first it was just about this vague sense of losing someone who you were once so close to, you couldn’t imagine your life without them – eventually it mushroomed into a Coming-of-Age thriller and the embodiment of this sinking feeling you get, when you grow up the odd kid in a rural community, which tells you, you’ll never make it out of here (alive)…
There is a picture of a young girl on the screen, shoulder-length wispy hair, dark slanted eyes, Babushka cheeks, stubby nose, a shy smile exposing crooked teeth. (from Part 1 of “Romka”)
The characters that populate the world of “Romka” are mostly inspired by people I knew when I was growing up. My grandparents, their friends, my friends and perhaps even me, a little or a lot. I can never tell how much of myself I put into my work but there’s always something or other I’m trying to work through between the pages. With this novel I stayed very close to home, both with the setting and the characters. I didn’t even bother changing any names. The people in question are either dead or out of my life and the characters I named after them don’t share many traits with their real life counterparts, physical or otherwise. So I’m pretty sure that I won’t get sued over this… 😉
A brief squabble ensues in which Jule brandishes his stick and Jaak uses his beer-belly as a weapon. (from Part 2 “Romka”)
The setting of “Romka” was inspired by the place I grew up in. Recently I moved back home and my writing went from urban to rural. The campground in question is an actual place, which makes it easy for me to trigger inspiration when I’m stuck – I just go over there and have a look around and in no time I’ll see my characters walking through the premises wreaking havoc and I’m back on track. The town adjacent to the campground is based on a nearby fishing town, almost exactly. I changed some of the infrastructure for ease of writing but whenever I reread those scenes during editing this 30k inhabitants town is what I see in my mind – perhaps my mind makes it a little grittier than it is in real life but that’s what happens to everything that inspires me. I plot and ponder over it and then I tease out the grunge…
The surface of the lake reflects stormy skies, black and blue like a battered bride on the verge of collapse. (from Part 2 of “Romka”)
During my writing career so far, I have been inspired by lots of things, art, films and music – thin air on occasion 😉 – but never have I taken so much from memory as with this novel. “Romka” is the most autobiographical novel I have ever written. It may surprise you, once you read it but it is true. I don’t know what changed and made it possible for me to access these memories and turn them into fiction. Perhaps it was moving back to this place, if only for a while. Anyway, I’m glad my path brought me here – & thank you muses, for inspiring me!
If you’ve made it this far, I’ve a couple of questions for you, before you go…
What are you currently working on?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
(This doesn’t just apply if you’re a writer, btw. Everyone is creative in their own right, whether you write or paint or cook or crochet, or whatever else is your jam – hey maybe you make jam?! – I want to hear from you!)
If this post has made you curious about my novel “Romka”, you can learn more about it right here on my website. Just click on the button below…